Interview: Meet the teacher - Shamita Ray
Shamita Ray offers classes, workshops and retreats in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, a fluid and energising practice which builds strength, develops flexibility, and brings calmness and clarity to the mind. Prior to becoming a yoga teacher, she was a dancer and choreographer for twenty years, specialising in contemporary dance and Indian dance (bharatanatyam). She worked with international choreographers including Shobana Jeyasingh and Wayne MacGregor, but has now retired from dancing to concentrate on full time teaching. She uses her background as a dancer to choreograph imaginative yoga sequences that move seamlessly from one posture to another, in a dance-like flow of breath and movement. She enjoys being creative in her classes, and loves challenging practitioners to discover what their bodies are truly capable of, while maintaining a sense of humour and playfulness.
How did you get in to teaching?
I graduated as a dancer in 1993, and started looking for any work I could get – a lot of the time it was teaching work that came up. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed performing too, but when I eventually retired from performing, I discovered I didn’t miss it at all. I started teaching yoga in 2010, and I currently divide my time between teaching both dance and yoga. I love it.
You teach yoga at Trinity Laban, what do you like the most about this class?
I love getting people to realise what their bodies are capable of – getting someone into a new pose for the first time, for example. I love it when people see their bodies – and lives – changing as they practice. I love opening doors for people.
In what ways do you think that yoga can benefit dancers?
Yoga can be beneficial on many levels, but the way that it has been most remarkable in my life is that it has kept my body healthy into middle age. In my twenties and thirties I was a strong and flexible dancer in a way that most dancers are. But now, I am 47, and doing yoga poses I wouldn’t imagine my body would be capable of at this age. I don’t mean to say that I am anything amazing – what I do mean, is that yoga is the thing that is amazing.
You also make your own work, how would you describe your choreography?
I don’t make work professionally any more. I do however teach contemporary dance to undergraduate students at Creative Academy, Slough, and enjoy making pieces on the students. I love work which is dynamic, quirky, idiosyncratic, and connects to the music.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
I love watching my students on stage, especially when they are graduating – it gives me such pride, love and satisfaction. Beats performing myself any day.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring dancer?
Enjoy it! It won’t last forever.
What is your favourite non-dancing activity or hobby?
I am exploring a new direction in philanthropy right now – it’s early stages, so I can’t say much, but I am hoping this will become the next chapter in my life.
If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you be doing?
I still play with the idea of getting a ‘normal’ job one day…
Shamita Ray teaches general level yoga at Trinity Laban on Wednesday 18.45 – 20.15h and Saturday 09.00 – 10.30h. For more information visit the Trinity Laban website. Shamita also delivers on the summer school taking place in 17 – 28 July 2017.
Shamita’s classes and retreats for 2017 are open for all, please click here for more information